In this day and age, home runs get the most "ooh's" and "aah's" at baseball games from spectators. Fans come to the ballpark to see guys like Prince Fielder and Giancarlo Stanton hit mammoth tater shots that come close to reaching Mars' orbit.
But there's more than one dynamic to a baseball game. The stolen base is a key aspect to any successful player and team. Of course, players who can hit the long ball, and steal some bases are exponentially more valuable than the one-dimensional player. All-Stars such as Ryan Braun and David Wright are some examples of sluggers who are also bag-swipers.
In 2012, rookie sensation Mike Trout paced the Major Leagues with 49 stolen bases (the Padres' Everth Cabrera seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the National League with 46 bags). Braun had his second consecutive 30/30 season (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases). And Jose Reyes reached 40 stolen bases for the fifth time in his career (he had 39 in 2011).
So as we sprint towards the start of the 2013 season, here is a look at who will likely be the tops in the stole base category when all is said and done.
When Jose Reyes gets on base, the entire complexion of the game changes for the time that he is patrolling the basepaths. Pitchers, particularly those who are fresh to the game, always have Reyes in the back of their minds once he reaches first base. When will he take off? Or will he take off at all? Even if Reyes never steals a base this season, his reputation alone will be enough to throw off pitchers as they deal with whoever is at the plate.
But we can't expect Reyes to never steal a base, so that thought can be dismissed. Reyes joins his third organization in 2013 after being traded by the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays. But no matter what uniform he is wearing, Reyes will run. During his 10-year career, he has reached at least 40 swipes five times, including three 60-plus stolen base seasons with the New York Mets.
Reyes will be playing his home games on artificial turf for the first time in his career, but that shouldn't deter the speedster from running amok on the bases in 2013.
Like Reyes, Michael Bourn will be wearing a new uniform in 2013. This offseason, the speedy center fielder signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, an organization that likes to run when it can. And Bourn can.
Last year, Bourn stole 42 bases, the fifth time in seven seasons he has eclipsed 40. In 2011, he led all of baseball with 61 swipes, and he led the National League in stolen bases each year from '09-'11. You can be sure that Bourn will have the green light in Cleveland, and another 40-plus stolen base campaign is certainly within the realm of possibilities.
In less than a full season, Mike Trout catapulted his name to, or near to, the top of some very classy lists. Trout's rookie 2012 campaign was stellar, to say the least. A 30-home run season; he led the Major Leagues with 49 stolen bases, and was second only to Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP honors. If he can come close to producing these kinds of numbers in 2013, he might not be number two this time.
It's looking like the talented 21-year-old will be shifting over from center to left field in 2013, and he may wind up hitting in a run-producing spot in the lineup, which could diminish his stolen base total a bit. But another 30/30 season could certainly be a reality for the gifted outfielder this season. And he could be in store for a 40/40 season during his career.
Ben Revere keeps getting better. Though he debuted in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins, the 2011 season was his first real taste of Major League life, and he did not disappoint. That year, he hit .267 and stole 34 bases.
Last year, he stepped up his game and had his first 40-stolen base season, and increased his batting average to .294. Now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies' outfield, Revere could be primed for a real breakout campaign on the bases.
And seeing as he is just 25 years old, the stolen bases could be piling up for the speedster as his career continues.
Ryan Braun is a good baseball player. Well, that's an understatement. Ryan Braun is a really good baseball player. Braun has a Rookie of the Year award ('07) and an MVP award ('11) to his credit, to go along with five consecutive All-Star nominations.
And when most people think of the Brewers' slugger, they think of the 202 career home runs, including the league-leading 41 he hit in 2012. But his 126 career stolen bases can't go unnoticed. Braun is coming off of two consecutive 30/30 seasons, so one can only imagine what kind of campaign he will put together in 2013.
Believe it or not, Juan Pierre is 35 years old, and is entering his 14th Major League season. He returns to the Marlins, where he was a key member of their 2003 World Series victory. That season, the speedy outfielder stole a league-best 65 bases.
In fact, over Pierre's career, he has amassed 591 stolen bases, the most among active players. And though he has donned many uniforms in his time—he has played for six different teams—two things have remained constant.
Durability. He hasn't had fewer than 375 at-bats since his rookie season in 2000. For five seasons from '03-'07, Pierre played in all 162 games.
And speed. Other than his rookie campaign, Pierre's 27 stolen bases in 2011 represent the lowest total in any of his Major League seasons. Even last year he managed to steal 37 bags with the Phillies, good for ninth in the National League.
So even with 35-year-old legs, Pierre (who is one of just a handful of Major League acquisitions brought in by the Marlins this offseason) stands a very good chance of having yet another 30-plus stolen base season in 2013.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are seriously hoping Matt Kemp has a big bounce-back season in 2013. After being one of the game's top stars in 2011—he was the runner up for NL MVP that year—Kemp suffered through an injury-plagued 2012 season.
The area in which his stats really dropped off was his stolen base total. After stealing 128 between '08-'11 (including 40 in 2011), Kemp stole just nine bags last year. The 28-year-old certainly has the tools and the skills to rebound this year back to the player he was, as long as he can stay healthy.
In all, Jacoby Ellsbury's career has been somewhat of an enigma. The 29-year-old debuted with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, and the very next season he had a 50-stolen base rookie campaign.
And if that wasn't enough, in 2009, he stole 70 bags for the Sox, hitting .301 along the way. But injuries took their toll on the center fielder, and in 2010, he appeared in just 18 games in what was a forgettable season.
But Ellsbury wouldn't stay down for long. In 2011, he was named the American League's Comeback Player of the Year. He hit .321 with a career-best (by far) 32 home runs and 105 RBI. He also rebounded on the basepaths, swiping 39 bases as he finished as the runner-up for the MVP award.
Unfortunately, he reverted back to his injury-plagued ways in 2012, and saw just 74 games. But Ellsbury is healthy now, appearing in eight spring training games thus far. If he can stay on the field, you can expect another rebound season in terms of hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases—just don't count on another 30-home run season.
Coco Crisp sort of flies under the radar in terms of Major League base stealers. But the totals he's put up are hard to ignore.
For his 11-year career, Crisp has a total of 257 stolen bases. The last three seasons (since joining the Oakland A's), however, have been a big chunk of that amount.
Remarkably, in 2010 Crisp played in just 75 games for the A's, yet managed 32 stolen bases. Then, after leading the American League with 49 stolen bases in 2011, Crisp added another 39 to his register in 2012.
Crisp will 33 years old this season, and although the team acquired fellow center fielder Chris Young from the Diamondbacks this offseason, he currently projects to the team's starter on Opening Day. If he is able to keep his job in the outfield, he should have more than enough chances to continue to burn up the basepaths in 2013.
Carlos Gomez now has six Major League seasons under his belt, and as his experience grows so does his baseball sense. In 2012, he stole a career-high 37 bases with the Milwaukee Brewers, and was caught only six times. Catch him if you can! In 2011, Gomez was had the fifth best stolen base percentage, stealing 16 bags and only being caught twice!
Now 27-years-old, Gomez should continue to excel as a base stealer atop the Brewers' order, and could even reach the 40-stolen base plateau in 2013.